Solving complex scientific and technological problems today generally requires the work of multiple disciplines. In addition, the innovation cycles in application-orientated research are becoming faster all the time. Sophisticated research projects are therefore increasingly implemented in alliances or “clusters”, in order to focus different competencies from cooperation partners from science and industry in one place. One example of this trend is the Science Alliance Kaiserslautern.
Since its foundation in 1970, the University of Kaiserslautern has driven scientific and economic development in the Palatinate. It has also been the birthplace of renowned high-tech companies such as Wipotec, Human Solutions and Insiders Technologies, as well as scientific institutions such as the Fraunhofer Institutes ITWM and IESE or the Institute for Composite Materials (IVW). The dynamic growth seen in recent decades has led to successful specialisation in a wide range of topics.
Founded in 2007, the Alliance visibly combines the competencies of the research institutes in Kaiserslautern. All scientific institutes around the University and Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences are integrated here.
The Science Alliance ensures effective coordination of the research questions of today and tomorrow with a broad-based scientific approach, while also securing Kaiserslautern’s development as a science location. The circle is now complete: a professorship in Practical Mechanics was established as early as the mid-19th Century as a result of demands from the local economy for science related to research and application. Today, high-tech companies develop out of the Science Alliance. At the same time, it forms the basis for training qualified staff and has thus proved itself as an enabler of economic success. One of the Science Alliance’s core roles is to unlock the potential of interdisciplinary research and make it usable in practice. This is already being put into practice successfully in the two research centres at the University of Kaiserslautern, as part of the research initiative of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. These centres research both fundamental and application-orientated topics and are linked to the institutes and the University of Applied Sciences via the Science Alliance Kaiserslautern. The Center of Mathematical and Computational Modelling (CM)2 research centre optimises mathematical models for use in natural sciences and engineering.
The State Research Centre OPTIMAS conducts research into the interaction between light, spin and matter. In doing so, it addresses application-orientated issues from Physics, Chemistry and Material Sciences. It will have a lasting effect on research into spin phenomena.
Multiple cross-sectional research topics are brought together and worked upon under the umbrella of the Science Alliance. These include the following topics: energy, commercial vehicle technology, software innovations and spin engineering. This also means that the Science Alliance is involved in a wide range of national clusters and research groups.
Examples of successful cooperation include the involvement of Science Alliance institutes in the leading-edge cluster Software Innovations for the Digital Company and in the Commercial Vehicle Cluster – including with the Frauenhofer Innovation Cluster Digital Engineering for Commercial Vehicles. A working group has been created for this topic within the Science Alliance: the Commercial Vehicle Alliance unites all relevant partners within the alliance. This focus hopes to optimise software-supported development, planning and production processes in the commercial vehicles industry in cooperation with manufacturers and suppliers. From fundamental research to product and process development, the Science Alliance offers students, scientists and business a cross-discipline research environment. As they are everywhere, cooperation projects are based on how people work together. The Science Alliance has a platform for this, too.
This is making Kaiserslautern increasingly attractive both for leading minds and research-intensive companies. John Deere, for example, chose Kaiserslautern for their European Technology Innovation Center. As a technology location, Kaiserslautern benefits from short routes and an excellent network, in which the city and state, scientific institutions and local companies are all involved. This significantly promotes and helps to shape economic development in the region. The city and its people are open for innovations and ideas, while excellent structures and opportunities for cooperation and funding are available for their implementation.
Alongside the University and the University of Applied Sciences, the members of the Science Alliance are the Institute for Composite Materials (IVW) and the Institute for Surface and Coating Analytics (IFOS). The focus on information and communication technology includes the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE and for Industrial Mathematics ITWM and the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems. The Institut für Technologie und Arbeit (ITA) works on the analysis and structuring of labour and organisations. And the Institute of Biotechnology and Drug Research (IBWF) researches the conversion of natural substances into new market products. The Commercial Vehicle Cluster – Nutzfahrzeug GmbH (CVC) joined as a funding member in 2011.
The author studied Biology and Chemistry, completing doctoral studies in 1980 and post-doctoral studies in 1988. Following this, he worked at various universities in Germany, the United States and Canada. Since 2002, Helmut J. Schmidt has been president of the University of Kaiserslautern, and chairman of the board of the University of the Greater Region since 2011. He is CEO of the Science Alliance Kaiserslautern.